The Palestinian Authority announced it has cancelled an agreement with Israeli regarding the exchange of Pfizer vaccines, saying the doses are set to expire soon.
Palestinian officials had come under heavy criticism on social media after the agreement was announced, with many accusing them of accepting subpar vaccines and suggesting they might not be effective.
After the technical teams in the ministry of health examined the first batch of the Pfizer vaccines that were received this evening from Israel, it became clear that the 90,000 doses received do not conform to the specifications contained in the agreement,” PA spokesman Ibrahim Melhem said during a joint press conference on Friday with PA Health Minister Mai al-Kaila.
“Accordingly Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh instructed the minister of health to cancel the agreement with the Israeli side on exchanging the vaccine and returning the quantity that was received today to Israel.”
Earlier on Friday, Israel said it will transfer about 1 million doses of soon-to-expire coronavirus vaccines to the PA in exchange for a similar number of fresh doses the Palestinians expect to receive later this year.
“Israel has signed an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, and will supply approximately one million doses of Pfizer vaccine that are about to expire,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office said in a joint statement with the defence and health ministries.
Up to 1.4 million doses could be exchanged in September/October 2021, the statement added.
The statement did not give the exact expiration date of the vaccine, but COGAT, the Israeli military body that administers civilian affairs in the occupied Palestinian territories, said on Friday it had already “transferred 100,000 vaccine doses”.
The Palestinian health ministry said in an earlier statement that Pfizer was behind an initiative to “accelerate the vaccination campaign”.
The exchange agreement had come after Israel was urged to do more to ensure Palestinian access to vaccinations as it inoculated its own citizens at world-leading speed.
Israel, which has fully reopened after vaccinating about 55 percent of its population, has faced criticism for not sharing its vaccines with the 4.5 million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.